The regulatory evaluation process conducted before a plant protection product or biocidal product can be placed on the market considers the potential for exposure of groundwater and surface water bodies that could result from the intended uses. Products can only be authorised if the predicted exposure of groundwater is estimated to be less than or equal to 0.1 parts per billion (ppb) for each active substance contained in the product and if a surface water risk assessment shows that the predicted exposure results in an acceptable margin of safety for sensitive aquatic species.

Impacts on water quality from actual use of products are addressed through the Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC - establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy). A national monitoring programme conducted on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency assesses compliance with defined EU and national water quality objectives for various parameters, including pesticides.

Measures to achieve good water status under the Water Framework Directive are specified in River Basin Management Plans. For pesticides used in plant protection products the main measures are those set out in Ireland’s National Action Plan (NAP) for sustainable use of pesticides. NAP arrangements for training of pesticide users, distributors and advisors and for inspection and certification of pesticide application equipment will all contribute to delivering good water quality status in Ireland.

The NAP also focuses on protecting drinking water supplies through the establishment of safeguard zones around drinking water abstraction points in which the use of any pesticide product is prohibited. The need to observe safeguard zones and follow best practice when using any pesticide product in the vicinity of a drinking water source is highlighted by the fact that a single drop of product is enough to cause an exceedance of the regulatory drinking water standard for pesticides (0.1 ppb) along 30 km of a typically-sized stream. A series of information leaflets has been prepared to raise awareness and give advice on best practice measures.